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http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003220.htm (skin rashes) and
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/007086.htm (skin self-examination).
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Dermatology is a branch of medicine dealing with the skin, its structure, functions, and
diseases (from Greek derma, "skin"), as well as its appendages (nails, hair, sweat glands).
A doctor who practices dermatology is a dermatologist.
Scope of the field
The skin is the largest organ of the body and certainly the most visible. Although many
skin diseases are isolated, a significant portion of skin symptoms reflects a more
generalized disease that affects other organs. Hence, a dermatologist is required to have a
working knowledge of basic surgery, rheumatology (many rheumatic diseases can feature
skin symptoms), neurology (the "neurocutaneous syndromes", such as neurofibromatosis
and tuberous sclerosis) and endocrinology.
Dermatology is often practiced in tandem with venereology, the specialty that diagnoses
and treats sexually transmitted diseases, and phlebology, the specialty that deals with
problems of the superficial venous system.
The first step of any contact with a doctor is the medical history. In order to classify a
cutaneous eruption, a dermatologist will ask detailed questions on the duration and
temporal pattern of skin problems, itching or pain, relations to food intake, sunlight, over-
the-counter creams and clothing. When an underlying disease is suspected, a more
detailed history of related symptoms might be elicited (such as arthritis in a suspected
case of lupus erythematosus).
Physical examination is generally under bright light and involves the whole body. At this
stage, the doctor may apply Wood's light, which may aid in diagnosing types of mycosis,
or a dermatoscope, which enlarges a suspected lesion and may help differentiating
lesions, e.g. between a nevus from melanoma.
Dermatology has the benefit of having easy access to tissue for diagnosis. Culture or
Gram staining of suspected infectious lesions may identify a pathogen and help direct
If the diagnosis is uncertain, or cutaneous malignancy is suspected, a small punch-hole
biopsy can be taken under local anesthetic, to be examined by a specialist of
Again, the skin is immediately accessible to local therapy, often in the form of creams.
Antibiotic creams can help eliminate infections, while inflammatory skin diseases (such
as eczema and psoriasis) often respond to steroid creams. Apart from pharmacological
ingredients, the base of the cream itself can be often be of benefit, e.g. a fatty cream in
diseases that causes dry skin.
Dermatologists relatively rarely have to resort to oral medications. These are reserved for
diseases that cannot be treated with local applications. Antibiotics and immune
suppressants are most often prescribed for dermatological problems.
Surgical intervention may be necessary, e.g. in varicose veins or skin cancer. Varicose
veins can also be treated with sclerotherapy (injecting an agent that obliterates the vein).
Due to the disease burden of many skin diseases, there is a large amount of medical
research taking place in the field of dermatology, ranging from skin biology and immune
response in the skin to the optimal therapy for psoriasis.
List of Dermatological diseases
• Athlete's foot
• Atopic dermatitis
• Basal cell carcinoma
• Behcet's Disease
• Bowen's Disease
• Bullous pemphigoid
• Chronic dermatitis of the hands and feet
• Contact dermatitis
• Creeping eruption
• Dermatitis herpetiformis
• Epidermolysis bullosa
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